Artificial intelligence has come a long way since Alan Turing first speculated about the concept of the “thinking machine” in 1950, but there’s still a significant gap between the popular conception of AI and the reality of this burgeoning technology.
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Despite the proliferation of AI applications, the phrase “artificial intelligence” is still more likely to evoke thoughts of HAL 9000 and Lt. Cmdr. Data than anything to do with machine learning or natural language processing.
Indeed, the legacy of AI in entertainment has conditioned us to think of it as technology that operates without human input. No wonder so many have been shocked to discover that Google Assistant relies on human help to improve its understanding of voice conversations or that numerous tech startups hire human workers to prototype and imitate AI functionality.
The reality is that we are still far from achieving generalized AI that is functionally equivalent to the human mind. As the cofounder and CEO of a customer support automation platform that helps enterprises launch and train virtual agents, I’ve realized that whether the first generalized AI is born a year or 100 years from now, AI will always require human input and expertise — technical and otherwise — to operate at its full potential in a way that’s ethical, responsible and safe.
Below, we’ll take a look at some examples of how AI relies on human input across a variety of established and emerging applications and explain why even the smartest AI will still require human assistance.
Social media: Humans course-correct for algorithmic extremism.
For years, social media platforms relied solely on algorithms to sort and recommend content to users. These recommendation engines tracked user preferences by observing their behavior and returned additional content that aligned with user tastes.
Unfortunately, according to a report published by Social Media Today, these algorithms were found to have helped instigate political divisions by favoring divisive content to drive engagement. A report published by Time magazine noted that critics blamed the algorithms for breathing new life into conspiracy theories in the pursuit of new audiences.
Now, many platforms are turning to human workers for some much-needed perspective. In August, Facebook announced plans to hire a team of editors to curate stories on its platform in an effort to restore its reputation as a trusted information source. Other tech and entertainment brands have made a point of highlighting the human element in their content curation systems.
Algorithms may be great at finding content that fits our preferences, but they simply cannot account for the broader societal implications of the suggestions they make. Social media platforms are discovering something that will likely remain true no matter how advanced AI technology becomes: Humans are best suited to curate content for their fellow humans. […]